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10 Years After Quake, Rutland Family's Commitment To Haiti Stands Strong06:12
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The Be Like Brit orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti, in the shape of a "B" (Courtesy Be Like Brit)
The Be Like Brit orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti, in the shape of a "B" (Courtesy Be Like Brit)

In Britney Gengel's last text to her mother, she said she wanted to open an orphanage in Haiti.

Gengel, a 19-year-old college student from Rutland, Mass., had been in Haiti on a humanitarian mission with her college when a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the Caribbean nation.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed 220,000 people, including Gengel — and injured 300,000 people.

Her mother, Cherylann Gengel, calls the anniversary a solemn day for her family. But 10 years after her daughter's death, she said Britney's dream has been fulfilled.

Her family created the Be Like Brit Foundation, which operates a children's home and sponsors missionary work throughout Haiti.

"Our goal is to raise the next generation of leaders in Haiti," Gengel said.

The children's home, opened in 2013, is a 19,000-square-foot earthquake-proof orphanage that stands atop a mountain overlooking the town of Grand-Goave and the Gulf of Gonave.

There are 33 boys and 33 girls living at the orphanage — a number that represents the 33 days Britney was missing after the earthquake.

"We want to employ as many people as we possibly can, so that they can feed their families, and send their children to school," Gengel said.

On this 10th anniversary, Gengel said the grief never goes away. But she finds solace from grief through her work with the foundation.

"I get to talk about Brit all the time. People want to know about who she was — those that don't know her," Gengel said. "But so many people that did know her --family, friends — we get to talk about her and keep her real."

This segment aired on January 12, 2020.

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